Sunday, 25 May 2014

The Two Faces of January

The Two Faces of January is a psychological thriller set in Greece, starring Viggo Mortensen (Lord of the Rings) and Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man) as Chester and Colette MacFarlanes, a drifting couple, on the run from some shady past. They meet Oscar Isaac's Rydal, a young, well-educated man, who makes a living as a tourist guide and hustler. Together, they try to leave the country when Chesters past catches up to him.

This movie is based on a Patricia Highsmith novel, an author whose work already provided inspiration for countless great filmmakers, including on Alfred Hitchcock. And it certainly feels that way too. This is a very classic thriller story, depending strongly on its trio of main actors to carry it. And they do so very well. This is the kind of love triangle that Twilight couldn't even dream of. Mortensen gives a nuanced performance of a shady Banker who ripped off the wrong people. His relationship with Rydal ranges from mistrust to hatred with some fatherly feelings mixed in. The relationships between these three characters change constantly. Isaac starts out as the shadier of the two, but the deeper their mess gets, the more he becomes the moral compass of the movie.

Throughout the movie, it goes from a simple escape to a grim battle between the two men about Dunsts Colette. In lesser hands, her character could have turned out as merely a bargaining chip between Mortensen and Isaac, but the script gives her much more to do and makes her a central character as well.

The movie is elevated even further by its foreign setting. It becomes easy for the audience to identify with the isolation that comes with a unknown language and a strange country. Add to that an excellent script by director and screenwriter Hossein Amini and a suspense filled atmosphere throughout the movie and this makes for an excellent movie.

The movie does feel slow at times, especially in the middle, but the time is not wasted but put to good use developing the characters and making us feel for each one of them.

Overall, The Two Faces of January gets my full recommendation. It is a smart thriller that has a great atmosphere and strong lead characters.

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